2013 SDSU Football Season Preview: Defensive Line

Jordan Thomas tackle

Starting defensive end Jordan Thomas (59) and defensive tackle Sam Meredith (98) return in 2013 to lead an experienced group of defensive lineman. (Ernie Anderson/SDSU Media Relations)

Who’s gone

  • DE Frederick Trujillo

Projected starters (2012 stats)

  • DE #59 Jordan Thomas – Sr., 6-foot-1, 255 pounds (18 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, one sack, one forced fumble)
  • DT #98 Sam Meredith – Jr., 6-foot-4, 275 pounds (36 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, one sack, one fumble recovery)
  • DE #47 Cody Galea – RS Jr., 6-foot-3, 265 pounds (22 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks)

Key reserves (2012 stats)

  • DE #97 Dontrell Onuoha – RS Jr., 6-foot-2, 265 pounds (Nine tackles)
  • DE #90 Everett Beed – RS Jr., 6-foot-3, 255 pounds (10 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, one fumble recovery, one defensive touchdown)
  • DT #92 Dan Kottman – So., 6-foot-1, 245 pounds (10 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss)
  • DE #99 Jon Sanchez – RS So., 6-foot-2, 265 pounds (21 tackles, two tackles for loss)

Players to watch

  • DE #97 Dontrell Onuoha – RS Jr., 6-foot-2, 265 pounds – Onuoha was the starter at one of the defensive end spots in 2012 before taking time off to deal with personal issues. Galea filled his role, and played well enough to keep the job once Onuoha returned towards the end of the season. Keep an eye on Onuoha to see if he can fight his way back into the starting lineup next season.
  • DT #96 Kenny Galea’i – RS Jr., 6-foot-1, 270 pounds – After missing much of the last two seasons with injuries, expect Galea’i to make an impact next season. Several lineman with playing experience return, which might make it difficult for Galea’i to crack the depth chart early on, but a strong offseason could catapult him into the two-deep and get him onto the field. Expect him to compete with Kottman through fall camp for the primary backup spot at defensive tackle behind Meredith.
  • DE #58 Alex Barrett – RS Fr., 6-foot-3, 245 pounds – After redshirting his first season on campus, don’t be surprised if Barrett steals some playing time from the veteran defensive ends. With his first offseason in a Division 1 strength and conditioning program approaching, he should have no issue adding 10-15 pounds to his frame without losing quickness. With his impressive size and athleticism, he has a legitimate chance to see playing time next season.
  • DE Ben Moa – Fr., 6-foot-4, 225 pounds – A member of the 2012 signing class, Moa was unable to join the team in the fall due to academic eligibility issues. Keep an eye on him to see if he will join the team in the spring semester as a grayshirt.

2013 Commitments
With less than a month until signing day, two defensive ends have verbally committed to San Diego State. Dakota Turner and Jordan Watson both look to have promising collegiate careers ahead of them, but they will likely redshirt if they end up signing with the Aztecs due to an immense amount of depth at the defensive end position.

For the last two seasons, the defensive line has been a major concern for the Aztecs due to a lack of experience. In 2013, however, things will be different.

Next season, SDSU will bolster a deep defensive line unit after losing just one senior and returning all three starters. Head coach and defensive coordinator Rocky Long is big on rotating players, meaning at least six defensive lineman will see significant playing time. The Aztecs return seven players from this position group who played at least 10 games in 2012.

Meredith is the leader of the group, and he will add to his already impressive skill-set with another offseason of strength and conditioning workouts. Look for him to man the middle and anchor the line with even more consistency as his body continues to develop and gain strength. He will likely add 10-15 pounds to his previously listed weight of 275 pounds.

At the ends, Thomas and Galea are likely to retain their starting jobs as they are the most complete at their position, but don’t be surprised if Onuoha, Beed, or Sanchez make a push for one of their spots. Beed is arguably the best pass rusher in the group, but will have to become more stout in run support to earn a starting role. Onuoha and Sanchez, on the other hand, have great size and can provide solid run support, but will need to improve their pass rushing skills to become starters. With another year of experience under their belts, expect improvement from all the defensive ends, both in pass rush and run support.

Galea’i and Barrett are two names to keep an eye on, as both have a chance to crack the two-deep with a strong offseason. As for the other young linemen in the group (Robert Craighead, Malcolm Jackson, Teddy Queen), it would come as a surprise for any of them to see extensive playing time due to the amount of experience the veterans above them have.

Overall, expect the defensive line to play a key role for the Aztecs next season, clogging the middle on runs and providing more pressure on passing situations than in years past. The improved pass rush should help make up for the loss of shutdown cornerback Leon McFadden, as defensive backs will not be relied on as much in coverage because opposing quarterbacks will be pressured more often.

San Diego State’s defensive linemen combined for just 6.5 sacks in 2012. They will double that number and record at least 13 sacks as a group in 2013.

2013 Season Preview: Home

Stay tuned tomorrow for a preview on the linebackers of the 2013 San Diego State Aztecs

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by Hunter Hewitt